This is a very long post, sorry!
I have been dieting on and off since the age of 11. I was always a skinny kid until my family moved when I was 8, and over the next three years became what you would definitely call 'chubby'. To lose weight I started eating a handful of cereal for breakfast, throwing my packed lunch in the bin or giving it to friends (save for whatever piece of fruit was included: usually an orange, apple or banana) and eating a handful of dinner (my parents would always put food on the table and allow us to dish for ourselves, so it was easy to get away with this type of thing. My mum is a serial dieter and only ever eats off a side plate, so she never really seemed to notice...).
Throughout secondary school/college I was usually considered 'slim' or 'skinny' by others, but not always by myself. I would go through periods of anything up to a year where I would be conscious of what I ate and lose a bunch of weight, then start eating 'normally' again and put it back on, and repeat. I had awfully low self esteem and never thought that my face or body were pretty attractive; my legs and arms were too long and skinny, but I had a pudgy tummy with love handles, my boobs were too small, my skin was dry and ugly (I had eczema on my legs, arms, and behind my ears, and psoriasis on my scalp - all of which randomly cleared up on their own by about age 16), my hair was too thick and unruly, I wore glasses, etc. etc.
I had a very difficult family life at this point and would often have emotional binge eating sessions up to 1-2 times per week. I tried to make myself sick after these a few times but could never quite manage it (it's hard!). I tried just putting the food in my mouth, chewing, and then spitting it out. I trawled 'thinspiration' blogs for tips and actively looked for the pro ana/mia ones as they had the best advice from truly skinny girls - although I never aimed to be as skinny as them. Looking back on it now that behavior sounds very much like an eating disorder, but I never saw it that way at the time since I couldn't possibly be anorexic (I could never seem to starve myself for more than half a day), and I definitely wasn't bulimic (I physically couldn't bring myself to be sick, and couldn't get my hands on laxatives) so I just thought of myself as a chubster who, if anything, could DO with developing an eating disorder to lose some weight! It should be noted that throughout this period the biggest I ever got was a UK size 10, weighing 8 1/2 st at 5"4. I imagine that sounds fine, even ideal to most people, but I cannot even describe how DISGUSTING those numbers are to me... I have always (and still do now) felt happiest with the way my body looks when I have been just into the 'underweight' BMI category (between 17-18.5), and felt chubby when in the 'normal' range.
I am now 21, a UK size 6-8, weighing 7 1/2 st at 5"5. I can honestly say that I love my body and think that I am beautiful. My self esteem is at an all-time high and it feels so, so, wonderful. It feels wonderful to walk into Topshop and know that I can pick up whatever I want and look great, it feels wonderful to wear a bikini in public and not be sucking in my tummy, it feels wonderful to know that my measurements (33-23-35) are exactly the same as the current #1 Victoria's Secret model (Candice Swanepoel)... and as horrible as it sounds it feels wonderful that guys ogle me wherever I go and women envy me. I seriously get complimented on my appearance (face and figure), told I should be a model etc. at least once a day, if not several times a day. I get told that I'm 'just so beautiful' by cashiers at the supermarket, taxi drivers, random people in the street. When I walk into a bar or club, men's heads turn and stare, and if I'm in a more relaxed social situation (at a friend's house for example) they always try to sit next to me and talk to me more than any other girl in the room. I'm not trying to sound big headed - this stuff literally happens to me (and gets super awkward when I'm not on my own)! It's a pretty phenomenal turn around from feeling like an ugly duckling for years and years as a teenager, to now being considered the most attractive person in pretty much any room I walk into.
What worries me though is the price of all of this. To maintain my size I have a coffee (normally a cappuccino) everyday for breakfast, another coffee or a small (100g) bowl of fruit and fat free organic yoghurt (1-2 tbsps) for lunch (I try to alternate having a fruit-lunch one day and then a coffee-lunch the next, but often the coffee-lunch days outnumber the fruit days, and then there are some no-lunch days in there as well...), and then a small dinner of lean meat, chicken or fish (about 100g) and vegetables or salad (about 1-1/2 handfuls). I do not eat carbs bar that in my fruit/veg (but I don't eat potatoes!) - no rice, bread, pasta, cereal etc. I also do not have snacks. At the weekend I don't eat all day (just have coffee) and then treat myself to one packet of crisps (my favorite snack!) and actual full size meal in the evening of whatever I want, which will usually involve either going out or ordering a takeaway.
I have a bit of a problem with control however. I often find that because I don't eat very much, when I do eat an actual meal it's very difficult to stop. So when I come home for dinner after work I usually eat and then go straight out again, and then go straight to bed when I come home. At the weekend when I allow myself to eat what ever I want I will usually gain anywhere between 2-3 lbs, which is fine. If I gain 4 lbs I will fast (only drink water and maybe a coffee if I really need it) on the Monday, then weigh myself and assess whether to eat normally (my normally!) the next day. If I gain 5lbs + I will fast for two days. I usually fast for about 3-4 days per month.
I don't count calories but I guess I estimate that I eat about 400-650 a day, maybe (excluding weekends)? I don't exercise very much. I weigh myself at least twice a day, but sometimes this can be up to six times a day. I am ALWAYS cold, often tired, and sometimes feel weak or struggle to concentrate (usually only when fasting though - these feelings get ignored, in any case). I personally feel that no human needs to eat 3 meals a day + snacks (unless you're doing a LOT of exercise), and I think that the RDA of 2000 calories for women is OBSCENE (2000 calories is probably what I eat on a weekend day, and that would entail stuffing my face with things like Dominos pizza?! How you can manage to eat 2000 calories of healthy stuff is beyond me). I also view anything over a size 10 (maaaaybe a size 12 if you're over 5'10 and have a really big bone structure) as fat (I'm not trying to offend anyone here, I'm just explaining my strange little mind).
I am aware that my attitudes towards food and body image are not 'normal', and I'm fine with that. What I'm not fine with though is potentially doing serious, long-term damage to my body. I mean, I don't think I starve myself enough to really... but then maybe I do? And maybe my attitudes towards body image and diet are really harmful and I'm just in denial and shouldn't be okay with them? On the other hand though I have never ever felt so confident and happy within myself - I'll happily take feeling a bit cold/weak/tired some of the time over feeling chubby/ugly all of the time... Is that so wrong? I'm okay, I'm surviving, I lead a generally happy, fulfilling life and I am doing well at my job and at uni. My periods still come round like clockwork every month. I don't have body dysmorphia; I know that I am thin and pretty, and I have no desire to be any thinner or prettier, I just want to stay the way that I am! I've never felt so emotionally and mentally stable in my life (in every area, not just body image/diet) - yet I'm sure any doctor or psychiatrist would tell me that I'm not. I don't really know what to do.